Photo: Race Images

A Chat with Christian Cullen

14 April 2023

Off the back of his recent success in the Gr.1 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes, we caught up with rugby legend and part-owner of Pignan, Christian Cullen.

How did you first get involved in horse racing?

I have always loved watching the horses. I was in a few small syndicates, then Dave Monnery and I decided to buy a few ourselves.

What is it about the sport that you enjoy?

I’ve always loved the power of them (racehorses). Up close they are amazing animals and they have a real presence about them, majestic. 

Obviously for the punters out there, we all have a love/ hate relationship with having a bet - favourites can get rolled by an outsider. You need a little bit of good luck and having a great jockey on always helps.  

A very famous harness horse was named after yourself! Did you follow the career of Christian Cullen? 

Yes, I followed Christian Cullen. I don’t think I ever put any money down on him – he was never paying enough! He was some horse. 

Congratulations on your recent win with Pignan! Explain the feeling of watching your horse win a Group 1 race?

I watched at home as I couldn’t make it up to Palmerston North. I got a little bit excited on the turn into the straight, jumped up of the couch and scared the cats. I was cheering it home. The kids came running down and thought something had happened.  

What's the greater thrill - winning a rugby game or winning a horse race? 

Both are great feelings. Running out in front of big crowds and winning- that’s hard to beat. But this was right up there, even though I wasn’t on track. 

Winning a big race like this was massive. Probably a lot like rugby, you need good people around you. Adrian Clark (bloodstock consultant) finding and purchasing Pignan, Lisa and her team for getting Pignan ready and firing on the day. Then there’s Joe Doyle, our great Irish jockey.  It was a great ride and he knows Pignan really well, which helps. And of course, Dave Monnery and Andy Rennie, who are all over everything with our horses. I just sit back, watch and enjoy.

What was the inspiration behind Pignan's name?

It’s a classy French red wine. 

What race would you love to win as an owner? 

Every race would be nice! But the One Thousand Guineas or Oaks would be even better. 

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